Mandela is ‘fine,’ getting better in hospital

painted stones left by well-wishers are pictured outside Nelson Mandela's residence in Johnnesburg on April 3, 2013.  By Carl de Souza (AFP/File)

painted stones left by well-wishers are pictured outside Nelson Mandela’s residence in Johnnesburg on April 3, 2013. By Carl de Souza (AFP/File)

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Nelson Mandela is “fine” and improving after more than a week in hospital, his wife has said in the latest positive update on the 94-year-old icon’s pneumonia treatment.

“Madiba is fine, Madiba is getting better and better,” the private eNCA news channel quoted Graca Machel as saying, referring to Mandela by his clan name.

“He is in hospital simply because the doctors want to be absolutely sure that he is strong enough to go home and nothing is going to recur,” she said late Thursday.

Her comments marked the latest upbeat update on the country’s first black president, who was hospitalised shortly before midnight on March 27.

The admission was his third hospital stint since December.

On Thursday, President Jacob Zuma said he had visited his predecessor and that doctors said he was showing continuous improvement.

To help him breathe without difficulty, doctors last week drained excess fluid that had built up on the lining of his lungs.

Last month Mandela spent a night in hospital for a scheduled check-up and in December he was admitted for 18 days for a lung infection and gallstones surgery.

It was his longest hospital stay since he walked free from 27 years in jail in 1990.

Admitted for recurring pneumonia infection, Mandela’s latest health scare has sparked an outpouring of wishes and prayers from across the globe and at home.

“Thank you very very very much for lifting him up. God is listening,” said Machel who married Mandela on his 80th birthday and has been at his side in hospital.

No indication has been made as to when Mandela could be released from hospital, with his grandson also saying this was likely only when doctors were satisfied.

“We are sure that in no time when the doctors are fully satisfied with the investigations they are doing they will be sending him back home,” Mandla Mandela told SABC public television on Thursday.

Mandela’s lung problems date back to his 27 years in apartheid jail when he was diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988.

He has also been treated for prostate cancer and has suffered from stomach ailments.

South Africans have grown more accustomed to his increasing bouts of ill health, as they come to terms with the mortality of the man often fondly called “tata” or father.

“Even though he is old… we still need him, he’s our hero. We wish him the best and we are praying for him,” said Nomsa Muyambo, a Johannesburg young woman walking out of a downtown supermarket.

The prisoner-turned-president is idolised as the man who walked out of jail and forgave his white oppressors to steer Africa’s wealthiest country into democracy.

Although he left office nearly 15 years ago, he remains a unifying symbol amid racial tensions, deep inequality and a raft of political scandals that have dulled the gloss of freedom’s early days in the “Rainbow Nation”.

But worries abound about the post-Mandela era.

Daniel Ngidi is in his 50s and is “worried because if he passed away now, we don’t know what will happen.”

After leading his African National Congress to victory in the first multi-racial elections in 1994, Mandela served a single five-year term as president.

He then took up a new role as a roving elder statesman and leading campaigner against AIDS before retiring from public life in 2004.

He has not appeared in public since July 2010, when he was at the Soccer City stadium in Soweto for the World Cup final.